Killer Minnow: A Tale of Small Business Social Media Success

My name is Jenn Whinnem, and as Davina noted here, I am “minding” the 3 Hats Communications blog with this guest post. Enjoy!

Rather than tell you how social media can benefit your small business, I’ll show you. My favorite small business social media success story belongs to Killer Minnow, a visual effects, animation, and design studio located in New London, CT. Killer Minnow is three people:  Steve Lettieri, Executive Producer; Rob King, Creative Director; and Chris Conway, Post-Production Supervisor. They’re not just good friends of mine, they’re also extremely talented individuals. I interviewed Steve to find out how he has leveraged social media to successfully grow the Killer Minnow business.

How did you get started with social media?

We formed as a company in early 2009, and began using social media as a promotional tool for original web video content we created for our sister company, Story Forge Labs. Based on that success, we started to do more promoting of our Killer Minnow work using the methods we learned about with SFL.

Which platforms and tools did you select?

While we have a presence on multiple channels, we have a few that we really focus our efforts on. First of all, the KM site is pretty much a blog. We’ve found this to be a great way to showcase our current work in between updating our demo reel, which can become dated fast. While it’s time consuming to update our reel, it’s easy to share our latest projects in a blog post, and then broadcast a link to that work on Twitter and Facebook. We also have a YouTube channel where we post any video projects we’ve worked on.

Where were you most successful? What benefits have you seen?

Twitter has been extremely beneficial for us in terms of connections. Through Twitter, we’ve been able to connect with other agencies and individuals that work in visual effects and animation or graphic designers and illustrators whose work we admire. We’ve also been able to connect with clients, or companies we’d like to become our clients.

Our methodology there has been pretty simple: we share interesting, relevant content, and support the efforts of our peers, followers, and fans.

Twitter has helped us initiate contact with potential clients. For example, our relationship with GO Media, a creative agency in Hartford, CT, began through Twitter, and resulted in us working together on a series of commercials for the University of Connecticut (here’s one and another if you’re interested). Another example would be a connection we made for SFL through Twitter: Craig Engler who heads up SyFy’s digital efforts. What started as a conversation through Twitter turned into several in-person meetings.

Those are just a couple of examples. I’d estimate that 25-30% of our revenue for 2010 has come through connections initially made via social media channels.

What challenges have you encountered along the way?

Finding the time to do it has been the biggest challenge. The value comes in “doing it” regularly, and Chris, Rob, and I try to spend at least a little time each day on Twitter and updating our blog as appropriate.

These platforms help nurture and strengthen relationships, but the process definitely takes time. To go back to the example of GO Media, we had several months of back and forth over Twitter, then e-mail, before we had a face-to-face meeting and talked about working together. You have to nurture it like a plant. You don’t stick the seed in the ground and come back six months later to find a tree; instead you have to water, feed, and care for that seed to make it grow.

Do you have any recommendations and tips for other small businesses wanting to use social media?

We’ve gotten the best results for our business through our personally branded efforts as opposed to our company-branded efforts. It’s much easier to develop the necessary trust with a person than a company.

The great thing about social media is that if you’re nervous about trying it, it’s easy to dip your toe in to observe and get a feel for it before going in full steam ahead. I’ve always found Mashable to be a great resource to learn more about what people are doing with the various technologies involved.

My final recommendation would be that social media not be the only thing you do. You still need to go to, say, a Digital Media Conference in Stamford, CT, like I did last week. But afterward, I found the people I met at the conference on Twitter or LinkedIn, and began the process of growing that relationship into something more. As someone I know said recently, ignore social media at your peril.

Want More? Keep Reading.

7 thoughts on “Killer Minnow: A Tale of Small Business Social Media Success

  1. Thanks for profiling us Jenn (and for providing the forum Davina!).

    It’s true Shonali. You can’t just do the one, you need both the online & the offline efforts to complement each other.

  2. Great interview, Jenn!

    I especially like how Steve reminds us to complement online relationship-building with its offline sibling. It makes a huge difference when you meet people face-to-face, and then what’s really an acquaintanceship (is that a word? Never mind, I just made it up if it isn’t) starts turning into a real relationship.
    Shonali Burke recently posted..Customize Your Blog’s Error Page in 5 Easy Steps

    1. Shonali – what a great point you pulled out. The big takeaway here is how the online enables the offline, which is where the real magic happens.

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by today!

      1. Jenn, Made it back and found the time to read your post, glad I can check out Killer Minnow.

        Another thing I loved about Steve’s comments was that he talked about making time. Building relationships via blogs, regularly sharing and engaging via Twitter, creating good content, etc.. it takes effort and time, and a commitment to carry it from online to offline. It’s work, all part of it.

    2. Shonali, Thanks for stopping by and supporting Jenn’s post (as well as my blog). One of my goals for the rest of this year and all of next is more REAL networking. I love making all these contacts via Twitter and blogs, need to carry it through to develop those relationships as well as meet people and make some contacts right here in Atlanta too.

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